Kenya Airways opts for continuity as it names new managing director [Nation (Kenya)]
(Nation (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The board of Kenya Airways has gone for continuity in appointing an insider to head the national carrier for the next three years.
Mr Mbuvi Ngunze, current airline chief operating officer, takes up the role of group managing director and CEO from Titus Naikuni from December 1. Mr Naikuni, 60, retires on November 30, having served KQ for 11 years.
Making the announcement board chairman Evanson Mwaniki, said: "I am pleased that the board has finally reached a unanimous decision on this matter."
The airline's board enlisted Chicago-based international executive search firm Spencer Stuart in January this year to help it identify a successor to Mr Naikuni.
It unanimously supported the option of picking a successor from within to help the airline accomplish its 10-year growth strategy dubbed Project Mawingu that is in its third year now.
Mr Ngunze takes over the helm at a time when KQ is positioning itself as the airline of choice in Africa leveraging on the government plan to make Jomo Kenyatta International Airport a regional hub.
He will thus shoulder the responsibility of delivering the ambitious Project Mawingu as well as maintaining the airline profitability in the face of growing competition.
Grow destinationProject Mawingu involves the airline's vision to grow its destinations to 115 and increase its fleet to 120 aircraft by 2021.
In 2009 Kenya Airways made a highly anticipated decision by ordering nine Boeing 787 Dreamliners and followed this in 2011 with the acquisition of 10 fully-owned Embraers.
The airline posted Sh7.86 billion net loss in the year to March 2013 on account of escalating fuel prices, increased competition and the Eurozone crisis that led to a drop in passenger numbers in key markets.
This had followed a Sh1.66 billion loss the previous year that forced the airline to halt dividend payments for the first time in 14 years.
Cost-cutting measures and major gains in fuel saw the airline bounce back to profitability for the six months ending September 2013, posting Sh384 million.
Mr Ngunze will thus have to maintain this path as well as oversee the airline's shift to long-haul flights to tap into the seemingly lucrative Asian market.
The national carrier has already received two of the 10 Dreamliner airplanes expected this financial year to propel its long-haul ambitions and introduction of new intercontinental flights.
The incoming chief executive will also face the challenge of increased competition, especially from Middle East carriers that have been expanding their reach in Africa.
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